Lake Norman & Mooresville

Junior helping Huskies grow up

Drexler Clark knows he is in a tough situation. But the 5-foot-10 Hough High sophomore point guard feels lucky he has the opportunity to help build the Husky program from the ground up.

Just one year ago, Clark was the shooting guard on a talented North Meck JV team that went 19-1 and won an I-Meck JV conference title.

Now Clark is the point guard and one of the leaders of a Hough team that not only lacks seniors but must play in one of the best conferences in the state in the I-Meck.

"The transition from the JV level to starting on varsity has been a big jump," said Clark. "But I'm getting a lot more comfortable and I think a lot of our guys are feeling more confident. We're going to learn together and continue to grow as a team."

While Hough hasn't had a lot of success (2-9 through Dec. 27), the Huskies have improved.

Coach Justin Batts may be the perfect leader for the Huskies, after helping start the Hopewell program as a player when the school opened eight years ago.

"I definitely understand what it is like to be in a first-year program and what these guys are going through," said Batts. "I try to tell them that 'The Pyramids weren't built in a day,' but the foundation was laid and that is what we are working on right now."

Clark, averaging 8 points and 3 assists per contest, is a big part of the core of the Hough program that includes former North Meck JV players like 6-foot-7 center Johnny Piedmonte and 5-foot-10 guard Brandon Mobley as well juniors Nick Bernardo and Ty Decker.

But while all five guys are key, Clark has the large responsibility of being the primary ball-handler, point guard and leader on the floor, whether he is ready or not.

"For Clark, the biggest challenge is not necessarily his ability with the ball but becoming a more vocal leader on the floor," said Batts. "He's a quiet guy by nature, but he has gotten a lot better."

After losing their first five games, Clark and the Huskies got back-to-back victories last month against Lake Norman Charter and Bandys and have near misses against both Myers Park (46-45) and Central Cabarrus (53-51).

Clark, who Batts said was going 100-miles-per-hour at everything when the season got under way, says things are starting to slow down.

"The size, speed and intensity of the varsity game is a big adjustment at first," said Clark. "But I think we know what to expect now. We have started to step our game up and play with more confidence."

Batts says Clark and his teammates have no choice but to grow up fast.

"I know this is a building process, but we have the team that we have," said Batts. "I need our top guys to step up. We have the talent, now we have to started embracing the role that we've been put into."

Batts, Clark and the rest of the team hope their hard work and progress start to show in the win column as they enter the meat of their I-Meck schedule this week, facing Lake Norman, Mooresville and Mallard Creek in the next 10 days.

"You look at the schedule and it's tough - there are no easy games," said Batts. "But a lot of teams in our league are rebuilding or reloading. I feel like this is one of the better years to be starting out."

If Hough is to take advantage of a younger I-Meck, it begins with Clark, who is not only the leader of the offense but must get the ball to the right people at the right time.

Clark says he is looking forward to the opportunity ahead for both himself and his team.

"A lot of guys my age would still be on the JV team working their way up," he said. "But it's exciting to be starting on varsity and to be expected to do a lot. I know it isn't going to be easy, but I'm looking forward to it. I feel like we can surprise some and be a factor the rest of the way."